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Attempting to Fit In

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
In the day after the NHL trade deadline, the newest Sabres went through their first practice with the rest of the team at HSBC Arena Wednesday. Both forward Dainius Zubrus and goaltender Ty Conklin donned their practice gear and got accustomed to their new teammates and new surroundings.

Even though it was a surprise to the duo that they had been traded, the opportunity to help the Sabres' push for the playoffs down the stretch, more than made up for the initial shock of the ordeal.

"I'm very excited. They're one of the best teams in the league," said Zubrus who had 52 points (20g, 32a) with the Washington Capitals this season. "The last couple of years in Washington, you don't get to experience the playoffs and a real hockey atmosphere. So this is a good change for me and I'm very excited.

"You're not even sure if you're going to make the playoffs one day and next thing you know, you know you have a very good chance of winning the Stanley Cup. It definitely gives you a little boost."

"High expectations," said Conklin about the Sabres. Conklin played in 11 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, registering a 2-3-2 record with a .871 save percentage. "I mean certainly every team has high expectations but this team has followed through on many of those so far. It's exciting to be in the locker room."

Dealing with all of the injuries that the lineup has gone through, the team is just happy to have two more healthy bodies.

"In Zubrus' case, we're getting a veteran guy that has played in a lot of situations," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "And in Conklin's case, we're getting a young guy that we know will be support for Ryan when he doesn't play."

The new players know that they don't necessarily have to be "the guy" that takes the team over the top, as most of the pieces are already in place.

"When you're in the top part of the league, a lot of cylinders are going for you," said Zubrus. "This team is going well with that and right now with a bunch of injuries, they still score five-six goals consistently. My job is to fit in. It's to come in, adapt to what's thrown at me and make the most out of it and I understand that and I will work my way in."

Zubrus should see time on both of Buffalo's special teams, as he played on both units in Washington. Ruff expects the forward to easily fit in and be like the other skilled players on the team.

"As I said to him, our players are universal," said Ruff. "We expect every guy to be as good a back checker as they are a fore checker. In our system there is no one guy that hangs back or covers for any body. It's a five-man attack and a lot of times you're covering for a defenseman. He understands pretty much the way we play and he's looking forward to playing a real up-tempo game."

With the trade of Martin Biron to the Philadelphia Flyers, the team has placed the majority of the workload on the shoulders of Ryan Miller. But Conklin will see action.

"He's going to get his opportunities to play," said Ruff concerning Conklin's playing time. "We have got a schedule that's conducive to dropping Ty in and playing him. I said yesterday that we'll get him in some practices and get him used to how we play and then he's going to step in and play some games. We'll put a schedule together not a lot different to the one we had with Marty, and we'll let him go."

"I think when you know that your role is pretty well defined like mine is, those are the kinds of things you have to prepare for," said Conklin. "You have to figure out what works for you and how you can get yourself prepared. I've done a bit of that in my career to so I think I have a pretty good handle on how to get my game in shape with fewer starts than normal."

It doesn't matter what position the coaching staff has the two new Sabres playing or how much time they see. As long as they get another chance to chase Lord Stanley's Cup, they'd be willing to become the team's entertainer for the rest of the year.

"Any time that you get to be part of a team with the expectations and the high goals that are here, it's exciting to be a part of it," said Conklin. "I just want to be a help, bring a little bit of excitement to the locker room, and bring some good positive energy."
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